The Wall St Journal reports that last week Google submitted an FCC application for a license to create an “experimental radio service”, using Clearwire’s frequencies, with a two-mile radius covering its headquarters.
According to the application, first spotted by wireless engineer Steven Crowley, Google plans to test up to 50 base stations and 200 user devices. The frequencies requested are 2524-2546 and 2567-2625 MHz. These are bands allocated to the Educational Broadband Service (EBS) and the Broadband Radio Service (BRS), which are used by Clearwire for its mobile broadband service.
Crowley notes this is Google’s first experimental radio application using licensed broadband. Prior to this, Google has deployed free WiFi networks in Mountain View, Airports and parts of Chelsea in NYC. They have also been a proponent of using “white spaces” in unused UHF TV frequencies.
A Google spokeswoman on Wednesday declined to comment on the purpose of the application, saying the company regularly experiments with new things.
If Google wants to sell LTE Android phones, the 2.6 GHz band is where they need to be. It’s globally harmonized for LTE. Clearwire’s TD-LTE system, due to launch in mid-2013, will allow infrastructure and terminal compatibility with China Mobile and Japan’s Softbank, and those devices may work with 2.6 GHz systems in other countries.
NPD Connected Intelligence found smartphones used less than 2 GB a month. Ad revenue might generate double the $2-5/month it costs to deliver the service. Multiply by 10 million subscribers/month. Maybe that’s a business. A billion dollar business.
For Google, the commodity pricing and universal harmonization of 2.6 GHz LTE would likely eclipse the range advantage of Dish’s 2.1 GHz band. The Clearwire infrastructure is already built. Softbank is funding Sprint’s TD-LTE buildout, and Sprint is likely to win the fight to acquire the remaining shares of Clearwire it does not already own.
But small cells require lots of municipal fiber. That’s where Google Fiber might come in.
Let’s speculate on possible scenarios:
- Google provides fiber in exchange for 20 MHz of wireless bandwidth.
- Sprint supports an Apple 2.6 GHz phone/tablet/TV service on the remaining 20 MHz
- Dish will take its marbles to AT&T or a foreign operator.
- Sprint/Softbank announces deal at Mobile World Congress
- Dish pressure to announce a deal is increased.
But all this is just idle speculation. What does it mean? Nothing. Of course Google is experimenting with 2.6 GHz. Why wouldn’t they? They’re going to be making 2.6 GHz Nexus phones no matter what happens. Several MWC devices are likely to support 2.6 GHz.
With Google Fiber, private money, not taxpayer money, might build a municipal fiber network. In return for access to rights of way, cities could get significant public benefits — and “free” (ad supported) wireless broadband. Softbank gets fiber to the node and access to public infrastructure. It could be a sweet deal.
The public policy questions of municipal fiber to public rights of way may take years to sort out. Don’t look to Congress for guidance. It’s entrepreneurs (“job creators”) and the FCC who have provided the vision.
Related Dailywireless articles include; Seattle’s Gigabit Fiber CityNet, Chicago Announces Free WiFi in Parks, Google Fiber Launches in Kansas City, Free Google WiFi for NYC Chelsea Neighborhood, Free WiFi: It’s a Right!, Small Cells for Cisco, Sprint to use Light Radio for Small Cells, Street light Provides Wi-Fi, Cell Coverage, Hotspot 2.0, Intel: Basestation in the Cloud,